Sunday, July 14 – Museums and New Friends

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Student Takeover! See what Keon Rosado, SquashWise Class of 2020, has to say about our morning:

“Today our group went on an adventure to the National Museum of African American history and culture. Prior to the Citizenship Tour, I attended the museum about 3 times. However, every time I attend, I’m blown away. Every time I go, I see an exhibit I haven’t seen before. I learn new hardships pertaining to what Black people had and currently still endure within the society of America.

After visiting the museum, we were given the chance to first take a marvelous group photo in front of the museum. Looking upon the exterior of the museum, it resembled a crown. To me, the resemblance of the crown symbolizes the pulse of what it means to be Black in America. After taking the group photo, we had the opportunity to split up in groups to tour various Smithsonian Museum.”

After a quick prep meeting and a break back at the hotel, we were lucky enough to be invited to the home of former Deputy Secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security, Alejandro and Tanya Mayorkas. We enjoyed delicious food and Georgetown Cupcakes, in addition to some amazing stories and conversation with both Alejandro and Tanya. We were truly blown away by their generosity.

Daniel Islam, SquashSmarts class of 2020, shared the following: “Going to the Mayorkas’s was like being right at home. They were welcoming, there was no pressure, and they made a comfortable atmosphere for us to ask questions.”

Lexa Lara, Access Youth Academy class of 2021, shared, “I really like them as people; they were so nice and inviting. They’re just good people and I felt so comfortable in their place.”

Tour Counselor and CitySquash Alum Stacy Maceda added, “Mr. Mayorkas is a really good story teller” and everybody chimed in to agree.

We ended the day filled with energy and gratitude for their kindness.

Saturday, July 13 – SEA Heads to DC

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Today was mostly a day of travel, as we embarked on our trip to Washington, D.C.! We ate lunch on the road and arrived to our hotel around 4:30. Once we were settled, we went on a walking tour of the National Mall monuments, including the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial and reflecting pool. We enjoyed our student meeting at the Lincoln Memorial where we had an opportunity to reflect on the day and the trip so far. Please enjoy the reflections from two of our students who volunteered to share below:

Jocelyn, Squash Haven class of 2019: “The first meeting that comes to mind [as one that stands out the most] was the one where we we met Audrey Strauss and Tom McKay. I’m very interested and passionate about law and being able to meet them and learn about their accomplishments gave me insight into who I can become and what I can do.”

“This trip has encouraged me to be enlightened and empowered. Meeting people with successful careers, hearing about their accomplishments, and getting them to ask thoughtful questions has let me see that change is tangible.”

“The people around me are curious, intellectual and full of inner potential whether they realize it or not. They are a passionate group which encompasses different leaders who lead in their own way.”

Elizangi, SquashBusters class of 2020, shares the following about the trip so far: “The NBC tour was so cool. I never really thought about the film/TV industry in that manner, but after that tour, it seems like something that would be up my alley.”

“Today I feel overwhelmed and underwhelmed at the same time. We’ve been meeting with very important people and I thought that I would feel nervous around them, but hearing some of their stories made me remember that they had to get a start somewhere. They were/are normal people just like us”

“[I am surrounded by] a bunch of teens who’ve realized they have a voice and through this, we’re able to use it and tell people who are in power what we think needs to be done/get done and get them to understand that we are important too and our opinions matter.”

Be sure to check out SEA’s Instagram @squashandeducation to see our video reflections as well!

Friday, July 12 – CT ‘19 Takes on Journalism

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Today was day three of the tour, which began with a tour of NBC studios by Director and generous SEA supporter Brett Holey. Holey took us on a very special VIP version of the tour which excited both our students and our pages. Destiny, SquashBusters class of 2020, especially enjoyed the peek Mr. Holey gave us into the control rooms – “we never get to see the other side of the entertainment industry.” We were lucky enough to end with a bonus meeting with Lester Holt, who shared stories with us about how he got started as a reporter. He had very valuable advice for our students about maintaining intelligent debate and breaking into the news industry.

After splitting up into our small groups for lunch, we were lucky enough to tour the New York Times and engage with an all-star panel of journalists: Kathleen Kingsbury, Meeta Agrawal, Brent Staples, and Gina, a new journalist, who works in editorial for the Opinions section. The journalists spoke to us about how they remain fair, while still maintaining their humanity. Ms. Kingsbury shared, “Every journalist brings their own human emotions to [their work.]” Mr. Staples shared his experiences working as one of very few Black men in editorial work at the New York Times, stating that through his writing and editing he is “explaining the country to itself.” He also shared that “the only education is history; everything else is just training.” Finally, Ms. Agrawal shared the power an editor can have in changing the way stories are told: “My lens makes a difference. Everything you read in the paper is a choice.”

In the early evening, we toured the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. Elizangi, SquashBusters class of 2020, shared the following: “The museum allowed us to experience 9/11 in a different way. I’ve only heard about it through my family and in school, but seeing the artifacts and listening to the voices of the people of their last call was overwhelming. But it’s such an important moment in a history and it’s a good thing that we’re able to see it.” 

We ended the day with a group dinner and some student exploration of NYC before meeting back at the hotel to prep for our DC trip. 

Thursday, July 11 – Day Two of the Tour: Engaged Citizenship in NYC

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Today we had the chance to meet with some of New York City’s influential public servants and activists while exploring their workplaces! We met with U.S. District Judge Paul Engelmayer and briefly toured the Thurgood Marshall U.S. Courthouse. Mauricio, StreetSquash Harlem class of 2019, highlighted this as his favorite meeting: he loved learning about why Judge Engelmayer enjoyed his career and appreciated that he had so much positivity around his work after so much time in it. Then, we had a lunch meeting with Deputy U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss and Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom McKay at the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Students loved hearing about both of their experiences with prosecution and with both their setbacks and wins in their attempts to fight for a more just legal system.

After lunch, we met with former United States Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategy Dina Powell. Idalis, MetroSquash class of 2021, and Naima, SquashDrive class of 2020, very much enjoyed hearing Ms. Powell explain how she works to empower women in her daily life at work. Naima shared that Ms. Powell “wants women to be in the same leadership roles as men. Her goal is to make sure women overcome their challenges and reach powerful positions.”

After that, we had the opportunity to meet with Andrew Heyward, former president of CBS News. Last but most certainly not least, we met with Nisha Agarwal, Senior Advisor to the Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives, who spoke to our students about her role and her mission as an activist. Students were incredibly inspired by her story, citing her strengths as a person and as a politician. 

We ate dinner as a group, then went on a guided night tour of the South Street Seaport, Brooklyn Bridge, One World Trade Center, Statue of Liberty, and Ellis Island. We ended the night with our student prep meeting about tomorrow’s itinerary. Today was definitely busy and filled with learning from exciting people!

Wednesday, July 10 – Tour 2019 Begins in NYC

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Today was the first day of our 2019 Citizenship Tour! 18 thoughtful and excited students from 10 cities across the country arrived to New York City by plane, train, and bus. This year’s group includes a mix of rising high school juniors through rising college first years, who will be accompanied by four amazing SEA alum acting as our tour counselors. 

We began the tour with a welcome lunch where we talked about activism and what it means to be an engaged citizen in the U.S. today. After breaking the ice, a few students jumped right into their presentations that they’ve been working on to prepare for the tour, providing us with all the background information we need on our first Tour Speakers – CitySquash Executive Director Terence Li, StreetSquash Executive Director George Polsky, and SEA Executive Director Tim Wyant.

Abou, Squash Haven class of 2021, shared that he enjoyed the panel with George, Terence, and Tim, because “we always hear about them, but we never get to talk to them. I appreciated that they took the time to talk to us.” Alex, CitySquash class of 2020, appreciated Tim’s candid explanation of why the network changed the acronym from NUSEA to SEA. Daniel, SquashSmarts class of 2020, shared that he “enjoyed hearing about their challenges,” and learned that “it’s okay to not know where your college or career path is going to take you right away, because eventually you’ll figure it out.”

Finally Destiny, SquashBusters class of 2020, had the following to share: “Today was a day full of new faces and good laughs. We had the opportunity to meet those who started it all and learned about the motivation that led to our squash programs’ development.”

After our meeting and squash session at StreetSquash Harlem, we enjoyed dinner together, prepped for our busy day tomorrow, and headed back to our hotel. We’re excited to embark on the rest of the tour with these students and counselors, learning what it means to make a difference!

2019 Citizenship Tour: Meet our students!

From July 10-17, 18 high school students selected from SEA’s national network of students will spend eight days in New York City and Washington, D.C. meeting with leaders in government, journalism, education, policy, and the nonprofit sector, visiting museums and national landmarks, and playing squash as a part of the 6th annual Citizenship Tour. This year’s participants hail from 10 cities. “Meet” our amazing students below!

Maria Aguirre
Access Youth Academy
San Diego, CA

mariaMaria was born in San Diego but her family roots are from Mexico. Her mother is from a small fishing village in Guerrero and her father is from Acaupoloco. Maria has been making her family proud with her diligent work habits, achieving a 4.125 GPA and setting an excellent example for her two younger sisters.  Maria joined Access Youth Academy in the 7th grade, and has utilized its resources to the fullest extent. Academically, she has improved tremendously over the years and is a very committed student. Outside of Access, Maria is in the Spanish National Honor Society, Model United Nations, and works in the media group of Robotics Club. While Maria is still figuring out where she wants to attend college and what she wants to study, her interests span from humanities to the sciences. When she’s not busy studying, Maria delves into her true passion, the world of music. Not only does she listen to all types of music, she also makes her own – writing lyrics and creating beats. 

Mauricio Anguiano
Bronx, New York

Mauricio Anguiano HeadshotBorn and raised in the Bronx, Mauricio was no stranger to adversity as a First Generation American in a low income household. He had to work especially hard at a young age to overcome the stereotypes he was born into. His parents weren’t given the opportunity to finish high school so he acted as a role model to his two younger sisters and continues to aid them in everything he never had help with. Some would call it luck and others would call it fate, but in the 6th grade, Mauricio learned of Streetsquash through a presentation at the partner school he attended. He also learned he had been chosen to participate in a test prep program by his middle school for the SHSAT. With the help of the program, Mauricio was accepted to Brooklyn Technical High School and was able to join StreetSquash after finishing the prep program in 8th grade. It took until his junior year for Mauricio to truly fall in love with the sport, during one of the most difficult times of high school. He hopes to pursue a career in physics and to keep himself engaged and involved with the politics of his community and the country as a whole.

Sebastian Arango
Squash Haven
New Haven, CT

Sebastian Headshot--Squash HavenMy name is Sebastian Arango Chiquillo, and I was born in Barranquilla, Colombia. I then spent 3 years living in Venezuela, after which I came back to Colombia at the age of 10. After 10 years of living in Colombia with my family, I moved to New Haven Connecticut with my mom and my sister. My family and I came to the United States in hopes of getting a better education and a happier life. Creating a path for my younger siblings, I went to Truman School and John C Daniels Schools. In the 4th grade I joined Squash Haven. I immediately loved the sport and became fully committed to it. In addition to being a member of Squash Haven, I also play club soccer and participate in a weather balloon launch in high school. When I graduate from Connecticut College in 2023, I hope to be in a financially stable situation and continue to play squash and soccer with my friends. I also hope to continue serving my community and ensuring that other families have the opportunity to succeed. 

Elizangi Araujo
SquashBusters Boston
Boston, MA

Elizangi Araujo Headshot--SqBElizangi Araujo is a 17-year-old rising senior at the John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Science in Boston, Massachusetts. She has been a part of SquashBusters since the 7th grade. Along with reading, Eli loves to watch movies. Eli has always wanted to make a difference in her community and she knows that the Citizenship Tour will give her the tools to do so.




Israel Booker
Chicago, IL

Isreal Booker Headshot--MetrosquashIsrael was born on the South Side of Chicago, Illinois and went to 3 different elementary schools called Kozminski Academy (6years), Ashburn Academy (1 year), and St.Sabina Academy (3 years), and attends Gary Comer College Prep for high school. She started at MetroSquash in the 5th grade and took a break from 6th through 8th grade to pursue other interests. When she started her freshman year of high school, she returned to MetroSquash with zest for squash and a sense of agency over her academics. During these past few years of being engaged at MetroSquash, Israel has grown and made an impact by receiving the Student of the Month award and being part of the yearbook club. In 2020, she hopes to attend Xavier University in Louisiana where she will study pharmacology. Israel aspires to open her own pharmacy because she wants to be her own boss and offer a unique approach with her business. Israel believes that being a pharmacist is one of the most important jobs because medication helps people heal and overcome their illnesses.

Naima Burton
Oakland, CA

Headshot Naima-SquashDriveNaima was born in Berkeley, California, but her family originated from El Dorado, Arkansas. Naima’s family wanted access to better education and  job opportunities, so they decided to come to California to accomplish these dreams. Naima grew up in a single household most of her life until she got older and started seeing her dad more often. Naima later adapted to living in a household with her stepmom, brothers, and sisters. No one on either side of Naima’s family has attended four-year college. When Naima graduates in 2020, she wants to become the first to break the cycle, by attending and graduating from a four-year college and majoring in criminal justice. Naima attends school at Envision Academy of Arts and Technology in Oakland, which prepares and focuses on ensuring all students go to college. Naima discovered SquashDrive through a friend and fell in love with the sport of squash and how all the players interacted with each other. Naima enjoys how SquashDrive’s staff contribute to and care not only about the sport, but each student’s education as well. Naima is interested law, criminal justice, and spends her free time training with her track team.

Angel Esquivel
Access Youth Academy
San Diego, CA

pasted image 0Angel is a native San Diegan, being raised by his mother who came to America from Guerroro, Mexico. Angel might be the youngest member in his family, but he is setting the bar high with his 4.0 GPA and excelling athletic abilities. He joined Access Youth Academy in the 8th grade, and has been prevailing both in the classroom and the squash court ever since. When he graduates from the Preuss School UCSD in 2021, he hopes to attend UCSD and get a degree in law. His goal is to become an immigration lawyer because he wants to give back to his family and his community who have been impacted by the current immigration system. He aspires to make the immigration process more smooth and humane. Angel is also passionate about finding a solution to homelessness, as it is a widespread social problem in the city of San Diego. Outside of Access, Angel is a star soccer player and an avid movie buff. 

Jocelyn Feliciano
Squash Haven
New Haven, CT

Jocelyn Feliciano's Headshot--Squash HavenJocelyn Feliciano was born and raised in New Haven, Connecticut. While growing up in New Haven, Jocelyn was introduced to multiple youth-related programs including TAG (Talented and Gifted), U.S. Grant, and her most impactful, Squash Haven. She began her squash journey in the 5th grade and continued her pursuit for better education at an all-girls boarding school in Simsbury, CT. At The Ethel Walker School, she led the squash team as their #1 squash player, earning “The Most Valuable Player” award for all four-years. Her love for squash and her dream for achieving a greater future is motivates her to succeed. At her school, Jocelyn was an active member in multiple affinity clubs including The Latin American Students Organization (LASO), Black Student Union (BSU) and participated in clubs such as Random Acts of Kindness (R.A.K), and Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA). Her most active role was being Head of Community Partnerships and overseeing the entire community partnership program. She recently graduated from Ethel Walker, and is looking forward to continuing her education at Dickinson College, where she plans on playing for the Varsity Squash team and majoring in Political Science and Pre-Law.

Destiny Gabriel
SquashBusters Boston
Boston, MA

Destiny Gabriel Headshot--SqBDestiny Gabriel has been a part of SquashBusters Boston since the 7th grade. She is a rising senior at the John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Science in Boston, Massachusetts. Destiny loves reading, music, and science. When she grows up, she wants to pursue a career in microbiology. Destiny deeply appreciates the differences of those around her and she uses empathy to fuel her dream of supporting everyone, equally, through science and healthcare.


Leslie Gonzalez
New York, NY

DSC_0184Leslie was born in the center of the hardworking city, Manhattan, New York. She was raised uptown in Washington Heights with her older brother and sister. Her mother enrolled Leslie and her siblings in Catholic school for elementary and middle school. In 8th grade, Leslie joined StreetSquash Harlem and grew a love for the sport and her community at the program. Despite her siblings attending Catholic high schools, Leslie attended one of the top public schools in NYC, Millennium High School. During her time there, Leslie joined the Girls Who Code and Hispanic Media clubs. Throughout high school, Leslie discovered her passion to advocate for social justice. This fall, Leslie will attend Connecticut College, where she intends to major in Government and play for the women’s squash team. With an immense amount of support and resources, Leslie is dedicated to building a life for both herself and her mother, who sacrificed much for her children and never got the chance to take advantage of the same opportunities. 

Daniel Islam
Philadelphia, PA

HeadshotMy name is Daniel Islam and I am seventeen years old. I am an eleventh grader currently attending Science Leadership Academy at Beeber in Philadelphia. I used to live in a South Amercan country called Guyana where I grew up playing squash. Earlier this year, I moved to Philadelphia to finish my eleventh and twelfth grade years in school. I have been playing squash for about five years now and I loved the game ever since I started to play it. I won several tournaments in Guyana, and once in Philadelphia, I joined SquashSmarts through the recommendation of my school. In school, survey of law was one of my most interesting courses. In my old school before I came to Philadelphia I got a three term honor roll. In the future, I want to pursue business and entrepreneurship options. I am looking forward to the Citizenship Tour and the opportunity to meet with changemakers in the United States. 

Aboubacar Kourouma
Squash Haven
New Haven, CT

Abou Headshot--Squash Haven

I was born in a small town in the capital of Guinea called Hamdallaye. After 3 years of living there with my family, my father moved to America because of his job as an Accountant for a corporation based in Guinea. When my father visited America, he realized how different the way of life is here and how many opportunities there were waiting to be grasped. After almost a year of him stationing in America, the corporation he worked for in Guinea had shut down due to governmental issues, so he chose to bring the rest of us to America. He knew that America could offer us higher education and overall a safe community for us to strive in. When we arrived in America, my father put me and my siblings into public school, while he attended college for a better degree and my mom worked as an engineer for Medtronic. Following in my older siblings footsteps, I attended East Rock Community Magnet School located in New Haven, Connecticut. In 5th grade, rather than playing soccer like all of my other siblings, I decided I wanted to try something new. This when I decided to join Squash Haven and play squash, a sport that I never knew existed. Shortly after, I fell in love with the program and the sport. Squash Haven united me with old friends and allowed me to discover places and things that I would have never discovered on my own before. When I graduate high school in 2021, I hope to attend a notable college to pursue a degree in software engineering. I strive for a good life. A life where I can support myself and my family. A life where I can travel around the world and see things I’ve never seen before. A life in debt of gratitude for Squash Haven.

Lexa Lara
Access Youth Academy
San Diego, CA

pasted image 0 (1)Lexa was born in Oceanside, California to two loving parents who immigrated to America from Mexico. Her father from San Luis Potosi, and her mother from Guadalajara, moved to America for more opportunities. Their goal for a prosperous future for their children is happening before their eyes as Lexa attends the Preuss School UCSD, has a 4.25 GPA, and is on the path to attending a great college. Lexa will be the first in her family to attend college, setting a solid path for her younger brother to follow. Lexa hopes to attend UC Berkeley when she graduates from high school in 2021, and is interested in studying neuroscience or forensics. She has remained committed to Access Youth Academy for the last five years, joining in 7th grade. Outside of school, Lexa is passionate about social issues that impact her life directly, like immigration rights and global warming. In her free time, Lexa enjoys exploring fashion, trends and makeup.  

Alex Lorenzo
Bronx, NY

Alex Lorenzo PhotoAlex was born and raised in the streets of the Bronx, New York and is a rising senior at Mercersburg Academy in Pennsylvania. In December 2000 Alex’s parents arrived in Texas and managed to navigate their way to New York where they began their journey in a new world. They came risking everything, even their own lives, in order for a better lifestyle for the future of their family. Alex’s parents, not speaking any English, managed to put both Alex and his brother in school and provide a roof over their heads. His parents worked countless labor jobs in order to support them. In middle school, Alex attended M.S.45 where he was introduced to CitySquash in 6th grade. He immediately fell in love with the sport and became committed to the program. Without CitySquash he would never would have been able to achieve the goal of attending boarding school and improving his squash game. CitySquash has allowed him to accomplish the goal his parents hoped to achieve through all the countless hours they worked. In 2020 he will be the first from his family to attend college and hopes to attend a notable university, pursue his interest in astronomy, and play college squash. He strives for a life where he can be financially stable and work to help immigrants develop a foundation in the U.S. without many hardships.

Ingri Morales Sanchez
Kids on Point
Charleston, SC

Ingri Headshot -- Kids on PointOn June 3, 2003, in Shelbyville Kentucky, a baby girl named Ingri was born. After living there for 4 years she moved to North Charleston, Sc. She lived there with her hardworking mother and smart older brother. At the age of 7, she moved to downtown Charleston, SC with her mother and brother to start fresh. At the age of 8, her older brother joined a program named Chucktown squash. As she admires the interesting things and trips that her brother did with the program she knew she wanted to join when she was old enough. When she turned 10, she joined Chucktown squash with her brother. As the years passed she learned new information, met some amazing people, and even formed some bonds with the staff. As time passed she loved squash more and more. She would get her little brother to join the summer camp so that he would one day follow in her and her older brother footsteps. With the support of her squash team, she knows that she will be pushed and helped with her future major of medicine. With this, she wishes to help people and be able to make a difference. 

Fernanda Padilla
Oakland, CA

Headshot Fernanda-SquashDriveFernanda was born in the great city of Mexico City, Mexico. She moved to the United States when she was 3 years old. While growing up, Fernanda became increasingly interested in immigration policy and reform. For the most part Fernanda has grown up in Berkeley, California, and lives with her parents and two brothers. Currently, Fernanda is a rising junior at Berkeley High School. Fernanda has been a part of SquashDrive since the 7th grade and has enjoyed both the squash and academic aspects of the program. She loves the community that she has built with her teammates at SquashDrive. Fernanda is also a member of a program called Youth and Government, where she builds leadership skills and works with other youth delegations in California. Overall, Fernanda loves learning and talking about different world issues. 

Keon Rosado
Baltimore, MD

pasted image 0 (2)Keon Rosado is a rising senior at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Baltimore, MD. He is an identical twin and has an older sister. Last summer, he was given the opportunity to take part in the Overland Summers’ program: New England Hiking and Service where he had the privilege of giving food to families in need, mentoring third and fourth graders, and volunteering at a local food pantry followed by him hiking and helping to maintain certain trails associated with the Appalachian Trail. Keon believes in being a service to the communities around him. He aspires to become an automotive engineer to which he hopes to earn  a lot of money to start a non-profit which gives back to those in need. Keon plans to double major in engineering and social work. The drive, ambition, and selflessness that Keon possess will assist him in transcending to major heights of success. Some of the hobbies that interests Keon is studying different types of cars and studying various policies in our government that impact society. 

Idalis Wilson
Chicago, IL

Idalis Headshot--MetroSquashIdalis Wilson was born on the East side of Chicago but currently lives on the South Side. She is the older sister of Dylan – a caring and generous younger brother. She began her education at O’keefe Elementary School then went to Bret Harte for middle school and now is a 10th grader at South Shore International College Prep. When Idalis graduates from high school, she plans to attend college to study criminology. She hopes to pursue a career in forensic science. Idalis joined MetroSquash in the 7th grade after hearing about the program through her cousin. She begged her mom to sign her up and the rest is history in the making. She has continued with MetroSquash into high school because of the help she gets with homework and all of the different opportunities she’s been exposed to, like the SEA Citizenship Tour. And of course, because of squash! Her favorite tournament thus far was the Toronto Team Tournament. Although she didn’t win, it was a great experience leaving the country for the first time. 


Day 8: CT ’18 Comes to a Close


Today was the last day of Citizenship Tour 2018 and it ended with students having the opportunity to talk to, and hit a few points with, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. Senator Gillibrand was an inspiring meeting for our students to end on, as she reminded us to work hard to make change and to stay true to our core values, even in the face of opposition.

As I reflect on Citizenship Tour 2018, I realize that it was was even more of a success than I could possibly have imagined when it began last Tuesday.

This is the case because our students did more than talk about making change– they actually made change by forming meaningful relationships. In these relationships students supported, empowered, and respected each other in ways that left me feeling inspired and humbled. Students openly talked about their differences, learned from them, and came to truly love one another. Through these relationships, our students provided each other with the safety net needed to allow each other to grow, and grow they did.

In some way, each and every student stepped outside of their comfort zone– whether it was asking an important and challenging question when they were nervous, riding the subway when they’d never been before, or talking honestly about a personal challenge that they struggle with, every student took a risk and felt the growing pains that come with change, all because they knew that when they turned around, they would find themselves among friends.

We often think of engaged citizenship as something that requires large efforts, lots of money, or power. However, this Citizenship Tour showed how being an engaged citizen often starts simply with listening, affording every individual the dignity and respect that they deserve, and being a friend.

It has been my pleasure to be the Education and Communications Director for Citizenship Tour 2018. I look forward to seeing what our students, and the students of future Citizenship Tours, will accomplish with all that they have learned here.



Day 7: Senators, and Representatives, and The New Yorker, Oh My!

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Today was another busy day in the life of a Citizenship Tour student!

We were up early and out the door to start our mornings with a tour of the Capitol– seeing where Abraham Lincoln’s desk used to be, rubbing our feet on lucky stones, and learning all kinds of information about our nation’s capital that we never knew before.

We then headed to a meeting with Representative Lee Zeldin, enjoying the balmy DC weather along the way.  Representative Zeldin talked to us about the trajectory of his career, his family, and how he still gets a special feeling when he sees the Capitol and thinks of the work that takes place there.

Next, we had an amazing and inspiring conversation with Senator Corey Booker, Senator Heidi Heitkamp, and Senator Tim Scott. They motivated us with their success stories, all of which were fraught with challenges and set backs, and which reminded us that sometimes the odds are against us, but this never means we should give in. Instead, we should keep our goals in mind, try a different idea, and reach another three inches higher.

Students then had the opportunity to meet some amazing urban squash supporters at a reception at Squash on Fire. Here students had the opportunity to talk to Evan Osnos, a journalist from The New Yorker (As well as the evening’s keynote speaker) and learn more about what good leadership looks like, what it means to speak up, and just how important the voices of American youth are in creating change.

Finally, students ended the evening by debriefing about their experiences on the tour. And, before anyone else asks, yes, we do need to go home tomorrow. However, we will go home tomorrow as different people– people with new friends, people with new perspectives on life, people with renewed senses of purpose, and, people who appreciate and truly understand the importance of giving back and being a citizen of a country with so many opportunities and so much potential.

While tomorrow will mark the end of Citizenship Tour 2018, it will also mark the beginning of the changes that our Citizenship Tour students will bring their families, their communities, and their country.

Activism in D.C.

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Today was another jam packed day of the 2018 Citizenship Tour!

We began the day with a meeting at the National Student Legal Defense Network, a non-profit organization that works to advance students’ rights to educational opportunities and ensure that higher education provides a launching point for economic mobility. Students had the chance to hear from Alex Elson, Martha Fulford, and other members of their team on their career paths and the advocacy that the organization engages in.

Then, students met with Maurice Jackson, a Professor of African American Studies at Georgetown University. Professor Jackson spoke about his experiences navigating the higher education world and had a meaningful question and answer session with students that touched on topics such as racism, the impact of music, and what it is like to teach college students.

Then, students met with Judge Tanya S. Chutkan at the District Court for the District of Columbia. Judge Chutkan discussed her career path from dance, to law school, to becoming a judge. She talked about what it means to take the bench and the ways that her career has impacted her life. She ended the Q&A with students by inviting students to sit in her judge’s chair a take a picture beneath the District of Columbia seal!

Finally, students ended the day with a fun hit around at George Washington University, followed by some pizza.

We look forward to what our last full day of the 2018 Citizenship Tour has in store!

Day Five: Discovering Myself in Washington D.C.

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Yesterday we heard from one of our Tour Counselors. Today we hear from one of our Citizenship Tour students, Kiara, as she reflects on the events of the day and the impact that the Citizenship Tour has had on her so far:

Today my Citizenship tour crew and I toured Washington D.C. For me, it is my first time here. I have never visited any state further South than Pennsylvania. I enjoyed seeing all of the monuments, beautiful buildings, and the celebrations of the LGBTQ community all over the place. We also visited the National Museum of African American History and Culture. This particularly is my favorite highlight of the tour so far, because I found a little bit of myself today.

Being from Cape Verde and not knowing a lot about my own history, coming to this museum gave me more insight on it. Before I came to the United States at the age of 6, I did not know what “Black” was or which people were considered “African Americans”. Ever since, I have learned. Visiting this museum and seeing what my people (Who I did not even know were my people) went through to achieve everything they have today was inspiring. As an African from Cape Verde, I know about the history of slavery, but I was not as affected by it as the African Americans living in the United States because I did not have to experience many of the consequences of American slavery.

I have a sense of African pride that some might not have because they do not know much of their history and I realize this privilege I have. Even though I have been learning this history in schools for a decade, today I felt it harder than ever. I felt a connection like never before. I felt proud to be a part of the Black community like never before. Visiting this museum has left me even more inspired to continue the legacy of my ancestors. The museum is a beautiful place that makes the pain of slavery come to life, but also shows the beauty in the struggle. Through the struggle of enslavement to becoming free, the beauty of our culture was revealed through music and dance (One of the ways I connected because of the popularity of music and dance in Cape Verde) and so much more.

Experiencing this with my friends was also really amazing to me. I could not have gone through this painful but inspiring experience without their support. This tour has been really essential for me because it has given me the opportunity to connect to other young people who share my interest in changing the world. They are truly so bright and motivated. Sharing this experience with these individuals has been one of the best things I have done in my life.

To all my brothers and sisters, continue to discover yourselves too,